Being a journalist has its perks and recently I got an opportunity to redeem it. I’m referring to a rare opportunity where I got a chance to interact with Johnson Li, Executive Director For PC Design And User Experience, Lenovo. Johnson is the lead designer of Lenovo’s Consumer PCs. With more than 15 years of design experience at Lenovo, he leads an international team of industrial designers. Here is our rendezvous with him.
Q. We live in an era of ever-changing designs and each consumer have their own unique choices. This is more evident in the PC segment where all the innovations are not readily accepted. But the brand YOGA have won consumer’s confidence right from its launch. Keeping this in mind, tell us how the ‘brand YOGA’ was born?
We design products that serve customer needs. We also design products that surpass and reset expectations. So a diversity of needs is never a barrier for a product as long as it serves their needs. We make a wide array of products that suit different needs.
My design inspiration comes from the people I’m designing for. I draw inspiration from their culture, from nature and from the interaction between people and their natural environment.
No matter how diverse people’s needs might be, people fundamentally need a product that adapts to their dynamic needs. So we wanted to create a PC design language, or distinct set of features, that offers freedom for people’s diverse usages and yet felt as intuitive for users as if they were interacting with their natural environment. That’s how the YOGA laptop was born.
Q. Did you face any challenge while ‘machining the design’? If yes, what was the challenge during the designing process?
For a long time, laptops have been trying to improve themselves in a few set ways. They try to improve the keyboard, they try to create better cameras and better screens with higher resolution. We do that too. But we went a step further. We wanted to make a laptop that bends to users’ needs. So we focused on one of the most overlooked and important features of the laptop – the hinge.
One of the most unique features of the YOGA laptop is its revolutionary 360-degree watchband hinge. We debuted the first watchband hinge concept in 2005.
The watchband hinge allows for three modes of self-locking position: like any other laptop, a tilted position at 300° as a table display screen and bent over at 360° degrees as a drawing pad.
After seven years of perfecting the watchband hinge design and bringing it to life, we introduced the YOGA laptop, the world’s first-ever convertible multimode PC. It came with the thinnest, strongest and smoothest watchband hinge possible, made of more than 800 pieces of aluminum and steel. The YOGA watchband hinge was not only an industry achievement in design, but a feat of mechanical engineering that took years to refine. And we’re still perfecting it even today!
Q. What was your stimulation to name this brand as ‘YOGA’? Did you have in mind any other name apart from ‘YOGA’ during the designing process?
We knew we had created something revolutionary that would be a game-changer in PC design. The convertible laptop is adaptive to user needs in both hardware and software, and it’s also flexible enough to extend people’s capabilities to do more – similar to the practice of yoga. A universally versatile machine needs a universally powerful analogy, and we couldn’t think of a better way to describe it than as yoga. So we decided to name it YOGA, a machine that is as flexible, adaptive and fluid like the practice of yoga itself.
Q. The core focus of innovation is Lenovo, and the year 2015 saw some of the best breakaway 2-in-1 convertibles from Lenovo like YOGA 3 pro, YOGA 300 & 500. Keeping this in mind, what can we expect in 2016?
Expect the unexpected. Because that is where our users are moving. They expect even more convenience and ease of use.
You can expect to see thinner and lighter designs, and an even more intuitive user interface.
In addition regular upgrades like better cooling and longer battery life, superior display resolutions that are almost 4x the convention will also continue.
For more information, you can check out his blog post “Journey of a Journal” on Lenovo consumer PC design and the essence of PC mobility: http://blog.lenovo.com/en/blog/journey-of-a-journal